- Immediate and explosive – expressed in the moment and then forgotten.
- The long, slow, dangerous, simmer that lasts hours, weeks, months or even years.
- The delayed response – frustratingly crops up when the cause or person who triggered it has long gone.
- Misplaced - the anger that comes out sideways, directed at completely the wrong person or situation.
- The ‘don’t do anger’ anger – it’s not part of your emotional vocabulary. Often replaced by tears or frustration.
- The ‘won’t go there’ anger – because it makes you scared or feel out of control.
- Unresolved – sits under the surface most of the time, and flares up at the slightest provocation.
We start learning from the role models in our lives – namely parents - who show us whether anger is acceptable or unacceptable, ‘good’ or ‘bad’, depending on how they do it and how they respond to you getting angry as a child. Then, as adults, we go it alone, trying to make the best of what is often seen as a bad thing.
Anger emerges in many different ways. Chances are you’ve experienced more than one from the list above. I know in my own experience, I’ve turned anger inwards on myself, outwards in wonderfully inarticulate outbursts and I’ve also expressed it quietly, clearly and succinctly. The last is by far the best because it’s also the path to genuine resolution. By the time I’ve got to the calm after the storm by processing the feeling for myself, the intensity has gone and I can be objective in the aftermath.
why do we get angry?
My suggestion is: THINK BIG. Anger is all about feeling that your boundaries have been crossed or important values have been ignored or trampled on. Those aren’t small things.
For me, a common trigger is feeling that I’m not being listened to or allowed to express myself. I hold some big values around communication and respect and I get angry when those are violated.
Anger is also often the re-run of an old story. Although the situation that prompted the flare up may be new to you and perhaps a relatively minor incident, it may well have tapped into a programme you’ve been running for a while. For example, that rage may be directed at someone who pushes the same buttons as your mother used to push - or who just looks or sounds like her.
By understanding what your anger is really all about, you gain the opportunity to look at it more objectively, slow down, calm down and respond from an adult perspective.
Writing down the feelings can help bring clarity, as can running them out at the gym (or doing anything that gets the body moving) or meditating. Talking them out with the person involved can also dissolve the problem, but bearing in mind that anger is about your stuff, you’ll find that in spite of talking to the hapless individual who talks like your mother, the buck still stops with you.
let it go
For the sake of our own health and happiness, processing anger, learning from it and letting it go is the best thing we can do. If it prompts action, let that action be considered, balanced, fair and from a place of compassion for ourselves and others. Festering rage is corrosive, robbing us of energy and focusing the mind in a negative, destructive, unhealthy direction.
a frightening thought...
My anger at not feeling respected could also be explained as the fear of being worthless, which means that rather than blaming the person who I feel didn’t respect me, my time and energy would be better spent bolstering my own sense of self-worth and showing myself some love.
Blaming someone else for our anger is so much easier because then we don’t have to take responsibility for it – but the fact of the matter is, anger is only ever about our issues, our fears, our insecurities, our ‘stuff’. No one can make us angry if there’s not something we need to resolve or express in and for ourselves.
anger as passion
The anger that burns in response to violence, injustice or the violation of our own rights or those of others is a powerful agent of change, motivating and inspiring courageous actions and world-altering initiatives. The anger that fires up when our loved ones are at risk means we’ll find the reserves we need to protect and care for them.
And above all, anger is a sign that we’re alive and kicking. It’s just a case of choosing what we kick or, as is more often the case, deciding that rather than kicking anything, a better idea would be to think about what that anger is telling us instead.